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Ask A Pastor: Why Baptize Three Times?

Question:

Why do we baptize a child three times, in the sense that we place water on the child three times in the baptism? In the name of the Father (water), and the Son (Water) and the Holy Spirit (water)?

Answer:

There was a controversy in the early church about how often to immerse/pour/sprinkle those being baptized – once or three times. Scripture itself is silent on this subject. There was a famous document called the “Didache” (from the 2nd century AD) that called for water to be applied 3 times. The church father Tertullian also argued that a 3 fold application of water was necessary in light of the Trinitarian formula of baptism. Others argued for a single application of water. The Reformers considered it a matter of indifference (adiaphora). The synod of Emden in 1571 even made this an official statement.


Since Scripture is silent on this subject, it would seem to me that there is no right or wrong way to do this – 3 times or 1 time are both legitimate. My own preference is to do so three times to reflect that the person being baptized is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that most FRC pastors do this.

Pastor Eric

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